The second half of 2020 saw football return without fans and with player bubbles. It was a strange year.
After a summer of uncertainty the SPFL Premiership was given exceptional permission to resume but under strict anti-virus conditions.
Fans willingly paid for season tickets only to learn that they would become remote viewers. Players had to agree to strict safety procedures off the field but, inevitably, some fixtures were adversely affected.
Motherwell offered refunds for the incomplete season but fans were content to make the donation. The club offered ‘free’ streaming to season ticket holders for the upcoming campaign and a guarantee of the chance to attend 19 home league matches, whenever that is possible.
In April Stephen Robinson was listed as 5/4 favourite for the vacant Northern Ireland job. There was relief that he remained at Fir Park – although as the year ended many would hold the view that a change at the top was needed.
The summer transfer window was extended and included a huge boost to club finances when the transfer of David Turnbull to Celtic was, at last, completed.
Others departing were Mark Gillespie, Peter Hartley, Christian Ilic, Adam Livingstone, Christy Manzinga, Richard Tait, Rolando Aarons, Mikael Ndjoli, Harry Robinson and Jermaine Hylton. The new signings were Robbie Crawford - Livingston, loan Devante Cole, Scott Fox, Ricki Lamie, Jordan White, Nathan McGinley and Jake Hastie.
New strips, a claret and amber classic and a blue away version, were welcomed.
Pat Quinn and Willie Hunter passed away and warm tributes remembered their contributions as Ancell Babes.
The league got underway at the beginning of August and we were awful. After five games Motherwell had only two points and we had yet to face any of the ‘big’ teams. The Europa League provided a distraction.
There were three one-legged matches. We saw off the ten men of Glentoran 5-1 but needed a penalty shootout to edge past Coleraine. Next came the long trek to Israel and a 3-0 defeat from Hapoel Be'er Sheva. The short campaign was over by the September weekend.
By then we had beaten St Johnstone and produced a remarkable 3-0 win at Pittodrie, all the goals in the first quarter. After the usual thumping at Ibrox a chaotic fixture rumpus arrived.
October should have started with trips to Kilmarnock and Paisley but both games did not take place as our opponents were unable to field their teams. The SPFL announced an investigation and found that both clubs were in breach of health protocols. In early December the League awarded Motherwell two 3-0 victories and we flew up the table six points the better. By late December an appeal had been launched to the SFA and the bonus points were removed pending a decision in mid-January. We dropped alarmingly close to the play-off place.
The international breaks offered some rare Motherwell involvement in the progress of the Scotland A team. Declan Gallagher and Stephen O’Donnell drew much praise for their contributions in the Euro play-off and qualifiers and Alan Campbell retired from the U21 squad after 23 appearances.
Wins against Ross County and a Halloween treat in Livingston raised some hope but there then followed a major slump, nine games without a win included a League Cup defeat to St Johnstone
The year ended with a horrible Wednesday evening home defeat at the hands of a Kilmarnock side that had been on a five match losing streak. The team looked to be in disarray. Stephen Robinson handed in his resignation and the board accepted. Keith Lasley took on the job of preparing the team for the game against Hamilton on 2 January.
2020 witnessed only three league wins from the sixteen league games at Fir Park. It was horrible year and the struggles of our football team matter little in the context of the health crisis that has affected everyone. Let’s hope that the New Year can bring a smile on and off the pitch.